Luke and The Lost
As we continue the “parade of God’s salvation” from yesterday’s blog, we find ourselves listening to the preaching of John and asking ourselves questions that evaluate the condition of our hearts. I remember a little girl in Sunday School asking me a question that halted the end of the regular lesson, causing me to explain more clearly what salvation really meant. She asked, “Do you just have to be really good to get to heaven?” Sometimes, I think grownups think this way, too. John’s passionate preaching to the people of his day cause our own hearts to be rekindled with what counts.
Are we impressed with God? Are we trying to be good and go to church to impress Him? Is that why we go to church? Do we follow the latest, growing and most popular church in town because it IS the latest bringing the crowds? Are mostly curious about why the crowds are coming? When we go, do we complain about the traffic jams between the multiple services? Do we frown when “our seat” is taken by visitors or people we don’t know? What counts?
Do we go because of the talents of the worship band? Are we impressed with how well the preacher can put together a sermon that is funny and engaging? Do we think about “others” who should have heard the sermon? What counts?
Do we go to a smaller church to make friends only to gossip about who isn’t there? Do we go so we can be the “big fish” in a smaller pond and be recognized for our abilities and talents? Do we go because it feels good to be wanted or needed? What counts? Stop and think. Why do we go to church each week? Are we hungry for a mission or do we just want a snack to keep our impression of God a part of our lives? What counts?
Do we pray before walking into a gathering place of corporate worship, asking God to reveal Himself to us? Do we pray for those who haven’t found Christ to find and follow Him beginning this day? Do we ask Him to change us? Can we walk into any church, large or small, and hear God’s voice speak to us in a quiet hymn, chorus, or rousing rock song of praise? Can we hear Him no matter who is praying? Can we hear and learn from Him no matter who is speaking? Do we give generously, no strings attached, because we know it all belongs to God in the first place? What counts?
The motivation of hearts and habits of the religious leaders of John’s day were found to be detestable to God. John was sent to preach passionately about life-change, preparing the way of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He didn’t sugar coat the message. He spoke Truth directly from God, the Father. He offended many of the leaders. He saw through the hearts of those who came simply because it was the popular thing to do…to be baptized by John…the weird guy in the desert.
John, full of God’s Spirit and discernment, sees through their motivations and tells them what really counts, clarifying who God is. We are taught in ministry to never present a “should” without a “how” and John does that well. Listen…and learn.
Luke 3, The Message
7-9 When crowds of people came out for baptism because it was the popular thing to do, John exploded: “Brood of snakes! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to deflect God’s judgment? It’s your life that must change, not your skin. And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as ‘father.’ Being a child of Abraham is neither here nor there—children of Abraham are a dime a dozen. God can make children from stones if he wants. What counts is your life. Is it green and blossoming? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire.”
10 The crowd asked him, “Then what are we supposed to do?”
11 “If you have two coats, give one away,” he said. “Do the same with your food.”
12 Tax men also came to be baptized and said, “Teacher, what should we do?”
13 He told them, “No more extortion—collect only what is required by law.”
14 Soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He told them, “No shakedowns, no blackmail—and be content with your rations.”
15 The interest of the people by now was building. They were all beginning to wonder, “Could this John be the Messiah?”
16-17 But John intervened: “I’m baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.”
18-20 There was a lot more of this—words that gave strength to the people, words that put heart in them. The Message! But Herod, the ruler, stung by John’s rebuke in the matter of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, capped his long string of evil deeds with this outrage: He put John in jail.
What counts in John’s Message?
–John gave strength and power back to the people.
–Not everyone was pleased. The leaders were offended.
–“If you’re not offending someone, you’re not preaching the Gospel” writes Mike Duran. John preached the gospel well, preparing the way for Jesus whose mission was to seek and to save lost people. ALL lost people.
–Truth of repentance is offensive. Life-change hurts feelings.
Some people leave the Church because they have rightly heard the Gospel and its implications.
–It’s false to assume that if people reject our message, either our presentation is wrong or our message needs modified.
–When truth is lovingly spoken it can potentially hurt people’s feelings. And when people’s feelings are hurt, the messenger can be accused of being an unChrist-like meanie. Which many accuse Christians of being. John did not seem to be afraid of feelings.
–If feelings are so sacred, I’m not sure Jesus got the message either. Yes, He is meek and lowly of heart (Matt. 11:29). He is a friend of sinners (Matt. 11:19). He knows us intimately and loves us deeply. I am incredibly thankful for these things! But He also came to bring a sword and divide households (Matt. 10:34). He came to call sinners to repentance (Lk. 5:32). And He will return to judge the world.
–Jesus loves us so much that He will risk offending us.
–The Apostle Paul said that “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (I Cor. 1:23 NIV). In this sense, one way to know if we’re accurately preaching Christ is if some are offended and others call us a fool.
What counts? Repentance and life-change in our behavior. When we come and ask for repentance, Jesus will transform us into all He intended for us to be. That is The Message. That is what counts. Listen the drum beat of God and stay in step! The parade had just begun!
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your messenger in the desert, who spoke your Truth, risking his life, to prepare the way for You, Our Lord and Savior. We are humbled by his message. We repent of frivolous thoughts as we enter into worship of you daily. May we gather corporately with the right motivations of our hearts no matter where we are. It’s all about You. You are God and we are not.
In Jesus Name, Amen